Annual Agony Ride sets fundraising record
On July 8, when COVID-19 forced the cancellation of Christian Encounter Ranch’s 38th Annual Agony Ride, it could have been catastrophic. After all, some 25% of the organization’s yearly budget comes from the fundraiser.
With only two weeks remaining before the ride was scheduled to take place, pivoting to an all-virtual option was a monumental task. Not only would technology and communication channels need to be developed in order to encourage and support participants and to provide them with what they needed for a safe and successful ride, but each rider would now be responsible to coordinate support, determine a route, and prepare the nutrition necessary for a 24-hour event. And they would be riding on their own, without the atmosphere of mutual encouragement and teamwork that has come to be a hallmark of the event.
Caryn Galeckas, event director and an active triathlete herself, thought such obstacles would hurt participation.
“Without the in-person community, a virtual event just doesn’t have the same appeal,” she said. “I’ve only participated in a few virtual races since COVID hit, and those are only for organizations that really mean something to me — the ones I want to see succeed.”
By that metric, it’s safe to say that the average Agony rider wants to see CER succeed: despite the hurdles, most people remained fully committed to the event, choosing to collect per-mile and flat rate pledges as they prepared to ride as far as they could in 24 hours. If anything, the current situation spurred people to give more and to do more.
As Galeckas said, “I was blown away by the level of commitment our riders brought to the Agony this year. They did not come out to do some big event for themselves. They came because they caught the vision of what Agony is all about. They embraced doing it as fully as they could, and most of them rode for the full 24 hours. They really care about our residents.”
Indeed, the Agony Ride’s primary focus is the residents of CER. Young people ages 15-24 come to the 86-acre property in Grass Valley to receive love, schooling, spiritual guidance, counseling, and an opportunity to recover from the wounds inflicted by society, family situations, and their own poor choices. They come to find healing and hope.
As Galeckas noted, Agony riders participate because they want to contribute to that healing and hope.
Marion Parker, 82, wanted to ride 50 miles on her stationary bike — a goal that was derailed after she broke her tibia a few weeks before the ride. Undeterred, she still managed to ride a limited amount, and recruited her grandchildren and great-grandchildren to make up the difference.
Ten-year-old Sybella Wasson, who, when her mom was sidelined by a concussion three days before the event, volunteered to take her place. Supported by her parents, Sybella rode a half-mile loop 20 times and raised nearly $1,000.
Daniel and Rachel Jamison, former Grass Valley residents who now serve at Bwindi Community Hospital in Uganda, rode the hilly trails around their home in support of a ministry halfway around the world. Together, they raised more than $2,500.
These four were joined by 81 others who shared their commitment to CER and their desire to see it continue to be a place where young people can come to find hope and healing. Altogether, 85 riders in 22 locations logged 14,180 miles and raised more than $228,000, making this year the fifth consecutive record-breaking year in terms of dollars raised.
In the midst of a pandemic, people showed up and they gave what they had to give, and it made a difference. According to Jensen Near, who serves as CER’s director of student life and who rode for the first time this year, “What you have to bring to the table matters. Your job is to be faithful today with what you do bring to the table.”
All those who participated in this year’s Agony Ride — riders, supporters, and sponsors — did just that.
As for COVID-19? As Nate Boyd, CER’s executive director, put it, “It just showed us that not even a pandemic can stop the message of hope.”
Though the ride is over, pledges are still coming in. To learn more about the ride, to donate, or to look up an individual rider’s results, please visit http://www.agonyride.org. To learn more about CER, please visit http://www.christianencounter.org.
Source: Christian Encounter Ranch
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